Womad – the world music festival started by Peter Gabriel and friends in the UK in the early 80’s has found a regular home for an incarnation since the early 90’s here in South Australia in the cunningly titled Womadelaide.
Altho rumour has it that the festival is currently on the look out for a site that will enable it to uprade to a full camping experience, Im glad I caught it this once in its current incarnation. Maybe its my age, but theres something rather civilised about being able to drive or bus it into a city centre to a quite considerably sized festival right in the middle. The setting is Botanic park, some parklands adjoining the Botanical Gardens – very pretty, lots of space, and lots of amazing trees. If we do manage to make it down in the daytime, the shade of the trees will be vital since its pushing 40 degrees in the afternoons at the moment! Tho that does cool to a very pleasnt low twenties by the time the festival packs up at midnight.
After arriving and getting our bearings we caught some of the John Butler trio – an eclectic roots/jam band (read hick rock) getting a lot of radio play in Australia at the moment. The guitar playing was pretty good, but …
The Black Arm Band had assembled an Indigenous Aussie super group to feature in a multi-media presentation called Murundak (meaning “alive” in the Woiwurrung language). It was a mixed bag musically starting with some strings playing something polyphonic and quite discordant that sorta worked, thru some bits that sounded like a quite ordinary r&b outfit (albeit with some strong soloing).
One piece of the film footage got to me quite suddenly and out of nowhere – two relatively modern looking policemen roughly herding a dignified looking old aboriginal bloke into the back of a van. One minute Im just gazing around semi-vacantly at my surroundings – next I can hardly stop myself yelling “Stop pushing that old man around!”. After that the solo from the compelling voice and presence of Kutcha Edwards with the simple refrain (in nice gospel-esque three part harmony) “what we deserve” was much more engaging. There followed an exhilarating didgeridoo solo – its an excitingly rhythmic instrument in good hands – but instead of joining in and building up with it sympathetically, the other musicians stayed out and then came together for some sappy country and western sounding ditty and it was time to move on.
The redoubtable (and believe me this is the perfect adjective for her) Mavis Staples is something of a soul legend with a lifetime in the industy dating back to her Fathers early (we’re talking mid fifties) gospel based hits through close relationships with Bob Dylan and Martin Luther-King. Her strong involvement with the civil rights movement definitely lent added depth to her performance of a soul/r&b -underpinned gospel tunes from her musical history.
Finally we briefly caught Dr Natesan Ramani and friends playing flute in the Carnatic (South Indian) tradition on a smaller stage in a lovely little grove of trees but we somewhat lost the mood getting giggly imagining the titles of Indian covers of Beach Boys tunes. (“Surfing In-di-ay”, “Calcutta Girls”, “Nan, Nan, Nan”, “Warmth of the Nan” etc).